Leeds United unveil plaque in memory of South African legend

Leeds United's first goal scorer Phil Masinga comes close with an early attempt.
Leeds United's first goal scorer Phil Masinga comes close with an early attempt.

Leeds United have unveiled a plaque in memory of South African winger Albert Johanneson‚ the first black African to play in a FA Cup final.

His granddaughter unveiled the commemorative blue plaque at Elland Road at the weekend as the club kept up their bid to win promotion back to the Premier League.

Johanneson moved to Britain as one of few South African footballing exports of his time and made 200 appearances for the club from 1961 to 1969‚ scoring 67 goals and playing an integral role in helping the team to win promotion to the First Division in 1964.

In 1965 he became the first ever black African to play in an FA Cup Final at Wembley‚ where they lost to Liverpool.

“Albert is a massive part of the history of Leeds United Football Club.

"He was a trailblazer and paved the way for other black players to make their mark on the sport‚ this is a fantastic occasion for the club as we enter our centenary year‚” said Angus Kinnear‚ Chief Executive of Leeds United Football Club‚

The leader of Leeds City Council‚ Councillor Judith Blake‚ added: “We should feel extremely proud that Albert wore the famous jersey of Leeds United and for his part in the club’s rise under the great Don Revie.

“Not only did Albert play for Leeds at a time when there was very few black players playing professionally in the top flight of English football‚ he also holds the accolade of being the first black player in 1965 to play in an FA Cup final.

"The impact of both these feats and the inspiration it would have given to so many people should never be forgotten or underestimated.

“There is no doubt that Albert’s accomplishments also played an important role in helping to pave the way for future generations of black footballers from across the globe to come to play in England as he once did from South Africa‚ and this alone is a truly wonderful legacy.

"A blue plaque at Elland Road in recognition of Albert and all that he achieved is the least that he deserves.”

A schoolteacher recommended ‘Hurry Hurry’ Johanneson to Leeds after seeing him play for Germiston Coloured School and Germiston Colliers.

He was signed after a three-month trial during 1961 at the age of 21 and quickly made his debut in the Leeds first team‚ playing one game with fellow black South African winger Gerry Francis.

His mesmerising skills and speed at outside left caused panic among defences but often led to resorting to foul play to try to stop him‚ with frequent injuries to the winger as a result.

A target for racial abuse‚ Albert’s confidence was sometimes undermined by the jibes of his opponents.